Documenting Process Made Easy

Kathy A.  Long
Kathy A. Long Global Upstream Process Architect, Shell Oil Read Author Bio || Read All Articles by Kathy A. Long

There are so many methods, tools, and opinions on how to document the work that occurs in a company — sometimes called a process — that process models often become the deliverable instead of understanding the business.

Companies desperately need their work documented.  Until something is documented, it's not completely understood and cannot be measured.  Until it's understood it cannot be explained to someone else, and if it cannot be explained, it cannot be intentionally improved.  In addition, if it cannot be measured, it cannot be improved.  Without a benchmark against which to compare, provable improvement is not possible.

In our current social media environment, it's often impossible to capture people's attention long enough to identify and understand where value is created.  If you've ever documented business processes, you know in most situations it takes too long.

I suggest three rules for process documentation.

  1. It must provide immediate value.
  2. An eight-year-old should be able to understand it (not literally but conceptually).
  3. It's reusable.

1.  It must provide immediate value.

To provide immediate value, process documentation:

  • is used by people doing the work, 'fit for purpose'.
  • highlights "objectively" where the major pain points exist.
  • identifies clearly-solvable problems.

2.  It can be explained to an eight-year-old.

Someone once said, If you can't explain it simply you don't really understand it yourself.  Draw a simple picture.

An eight-year-old understands:

  • emojis, pics, GIFs, and Snapchat.
  • YouTube videos.
  •  texts, very short ones.  (omw - on my way)

3.  It's reusable.

The world is all about 're' — reuse, recycle, restore, re-examine, etc.

Never draw a picture of a process that you can't build on and reuse the concepts and information.

To do this I need:

  1. A repository — Sorry, Visio won't work.

  2. A defined approach — Everything has a purpose.  (See point #1.)  Understand what you want to achieve from day one.

  3. Knowledge — Understand how everything fits together.  The picture enables others to understand.

I will cover methods and approaches for achieving value-added process documentation in subsequent articles.

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Standard citation for this article:

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Kathy A. Long , "Documenting Process Made Easy" Business Rules Journal Vol. 17, No. 9, (Sep. 2016)

About our Contributor:

Kathy  A. Long
Kathy A. Long Global Upstream Process Architect, Shell Oil

Ms. Long has twenty-five plus years of experience in all aspects of BPM as well as Continuous Improvement and Lean. She is certified as a Lean Office practitioner as well as a Kaizen facilitator. She is currently in the role of Global Process Architect responsible for Upstream Process Architecture. During past two years at Shell Kathy has managed projects which implemented a new Business Management System for the upstream business as well as designed and documented the majority of core business processes. Working closely with the Global Process Owners, Leads and Architects to create quality standards and fit for purpose processes.

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